USA Women’s Sevens finish fifth in Madrid

Sun, Jun 2, 2024, 4:02 PM
by Taylor Dean
Mike Lee - KLC Photos
Mike Lee - KLC Photos

The USA Women’s Sevens took a fifth place finish to close out the 2024 SVNS season on Sunday.

Starting off strong in pool play, the Eagles fell to New Zealand and were sent to compete for fifth place. While not where they hoped to end the season, the Highwomen ended their weekend with a dominant win over Ireland. 

Ariana Ramsey scored six tries over two games on Sunday, becoming only the second Eagle to score four tries in one game, behind Kristi Kirshe who scored the achievement earlier in the year. 

The squad will take a short break upon returning home, reconvening before the 2024 Olympic team is announced. 

Comments from Head Coach Emilie Bydwell: 

“We were pretty disappointed, but the unfortunate part about this is while we had instances of matches that were really positive, we weren’t delivering that consistently throughout the game and regaining that when we really needed to. For us, today was about how we can control the game over a 14-minute period. This could happen in the Olympics - you can win two pool games and then lose out, so it’s important for us to focus on what we can control, what the process is, and what the next thing is. 

I’m super proud of how the team responded today. Some of these games, they were indecisive and they were controlling momentum while we were fighting for ways to get it back.” 

Tournament Recap: 

The USA started off with early pressure against Canada and an immediate score by Ilona Maher, with Alev Kelter kicking down field to win possession back in a five meter scrum. Canada broke away for a response try, but Spiff Sedrick put on the pace and took down the runner, keeping up extraordinary defensive pressure. Winning the ball back, the squad performed brilliant offloads among each other, drawing in defenders and offloading to Kayla Canett for the final play. Their defense and great support kept up the momentum, forcing an error that earned Kristi Kirshe the final try of the first half. 

Canada reorganized in the second half, able to side step around defenders for their first try of the game. But the USA immediately reminded them of their lethality on attack, making their way quickly down field with great support, with Spiff Sedrick getting the ball over the try line. Canada spent a few minutes on patient attack, while the Eagles worked hard to keep them from getting down field, but scored another try to decrease the score gap with less than a minute left in play. Canada earned one more shot by breaking through the USA’s defensive wall, ending the game 26-19. 

The Eagles began their second day in Madrid against Great Britain. Both sides tested each others’ defenses as they fought for possession for the first several minutes of the game, and it was Great Britain that fended off defenders to earn the first score. Great Britain held up a strong defense that forced errors on the USA side, who needed to clean up their attack and defense to control the game. A scrum set piece at the halftime whistle gave the USA their best attacking chance, and Ilona Maher drew in multiple defenders as the ball went into Kristi Kirshe’s hands, who found the gap and scored the first five points for the USA, tying up the match. 

At the start of the second half, the Eagles continued to scramble and held on to possession until a passing error put the ball into Great Britain hands, who scored immediately. The USA stayed strong, and Alev Kelter fended defenders away to push through and run down field. But Great Britain kept their defense strong and won a penalty to take back possession, but Great Britain’s attack went awry as the loose ball went to the try zone, where Steph Rovetti touched it down and put the USA in the lead by two points. Great Britain fought to the end in a heart-stopping last minute, but the USA’s defense ensured they took the win, 14-12. 

The Eagles headed into their final pool match against the Black Ferns needing to be in full control to secure their semifinal spot. The Highwomen had the first attacking opportunity out of their own territory, but both teams were hungry for the ball and an exchange of possession gave the Eagle a scrum. Reconnected following the last game, the Eagles took the ball down the short side and offloaded until Alena Olsen could get the first points of the game. The Black Ferns responded fast, shaking off the USA defense to put up two tries before halftime. 

Both teams knew what was on the line heading into the second half, and the USA remained urgent in their attack and worked hard to get into Black Ferns territory. But New Zealand controlled the ball at the start of the second half, increasing the score gap. In the end, the Eagles couldn’t get the points needed, heading to the fifth place semifinal with a 5-38 loss. 

Far from where they had hoped to be in Madrid, the weekend wasn’t over and the Highwomen needed to refocus into the next challenge against Fiji. The Eagles matched the Pacific powerhouse’s physicality, fighting for possession and rallying after big tackles. Ilona Maher earned the first points off a USA scrum, Alev Kelter reached over the try line after an overthrown Fiji line out, and Ariana Ramsey scored on the wing, holding Fiji away from possession for most of the first half. 

Ariana Ramsey rocketed away to the first try of the second half off a strong USA scrum. The Eagles kept up their dominance, with captain Lauren Doyle putting up another five points. It was a fight for possession in the end as Fiji tried to end on a high note, but the USA kept up the pressure to turn around their weekend with a 31-0 win. 

In their fifth place playoff against Ireland, the Irish took a yellow card at the beginning, setting Ariana Ramsey up for the first and second tries of the match. The USA held up a strong defense, but Ireland were patient to get their first try. But Ireland took another yellow card, giving the Highwomen another two-minute advantage, keeping the USA in the lead heading into the second half. 

Ariana Ramsey spun out of tackles at the restart to earn a hat trick. Ireland showed what they can do with a full team on attack, closing the gap with a score off a scrum, and the USA needing to bring back their solid defensive wall from the first half. The Highwomen continued their skilled offense, and Ariana Ramsey ran away to a fourth try, the second time a USA player ever made in one game, Alev Kelter following suit with a try of her own to seal the win for the USA, 27-14. 

The Eagles return home for a short break before reconvening in preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games. 

USA Women's Sevens Roster | 2024 Madrid SVNS
Name Position HSBC Tournaments
2. Ilona Maher Center / Prop 29
3. Kayla Canett Flyhalf 29
4. Nicole Heavirland Hooker/Scrumhalf 39
5. Alev Kelter Center / Prop 47
6. Alena Olsen Scrumhalf 24
10. Steph Rovetti Scrum Half/Flyhalf 15
11. Kris Thomas Hooker/Prop 44
12. Kristi Kirshe Prop/Hooker 25
13. Sarah Levy Hooker 11
17. Spiff Sedrick Center 19
21. Ariana Ramsey Wing 7
22. Sammy Sullivan Prop/Hooker 14
23. Lauren Doyle (C) Flyhalf 46
USA Women's Sevens Traveling Staff | 2024 Madrid SVNS

Head Coach | Emilie Bydwell

Assistant Coach | Zack Test

Strength & Conditioning | Trey Ford

Athletic Trainer | Nicole Titmas

Sports Psychologist | Peter Haberl

Team Manager | Liz Strohecker

USA Women’s Sevens Madrid Results

Pool A

v Canada | 26-19 (W)

v Great Britain | 14-12 (W)

v New Zealand | 5-38 (L)


5th Place Semifinal v Fiji | 31-0 (W)

5th Place Playoff v Ireland | 27-14 (W)